The Horror Honeys: Honey Buzz ~ Carpenter Wins Lawsuit... And He Deserved To.

Honey Buzz ~ Carpenter Wins Lawsuit... And He Deserved To.

It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission. ~ Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

The above quote is one of my favorites, and I think it's a fabulous way to live your live on the daily. But when you are a filmmaker, or a writer, or an artist, it is a surefire way to get yourself sued. Recently, iconic horror director John Carpenter won a lawsuit against the creators of Lockout for infringing on his intellectual property, a.k.a borrowing the plot for Escape from New York without permission. The court awarded Carpenter and his co-plaintiffs 80,000 Euros, which equals just over $90,000. Considering Lockout made over $14 million dollars in the US alone, this essentially equates to "go away" money. Still, some people are really pissed that Carpenter filed the suit at all. However, as official "Legal Degree" Honey, I'm here to make it perfectly clear...

John Carpenter had every right to file that lawsuit, and he deserved to win.

First of all, just to make it clear, Carpenter himself only received a fraction of the final payout. So while he may have filed the lawsuit, the majority went to StudioCanal, who hold the rights to Escape from New York. This leads me to believe (solely in my opinion) that the studio is as much behind the suit as Carpenter himself.

However, who filed the suit is neither here nor there. We have intellectual property laws to protect not just those who have succeeded in the industry, but those who are making their way in it. No, you can NOT copyright an idea or a concept. For example, you can't copyright the color purple, or the use of a jailhouse setting in a film. But when you make a film in 1981 about:

an athletic, rebellious and cynical hero, sentenced to a period of isolated incarceration - despite his heroic past - who is given the offer of setting out to free the President of the United States... held hostage in exchange for his freedom; he manages, undetected, to get inside the place where the hostage is being held, after a flight in a glider/space shuttle, and finds there a former associate who dies; he pulls off the mission in extremis, and at the end of the film keeps the secret documents recovered in the course of the mission... (The Guardian)

And then in 2012 someone makes a film with the EXACT SAME PLOT, but substitutes the President for his daughter? That's theft of a film plot, i.e. copyright infringement

Further, this case wasn't decided by some county judge with a stick up his ass and a history in divorce cases. Judges with history in INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY decide IP cases. It is likely that the judge in question read the scripts, listened to testimony, and possibly even watched the films before deciding that copyright infringement occurred. Cases like this aren't decided lightly, and they are often meant to be a deterrent to future artists who think the law doesn't apply to them, and that they can play fast and loose with the rules because they want to.

You break the rules, you get punished. Deal with it.
In this case, all DIRECTORS James Mather and Stephen St. Leger and PRODUCER Luc Besson had to do was approach John Carpenter, tell him their idea, ask for permission, and then give him a screenwriting credit. All of this could have been avoided if they'd acted like businessmen and not petulant children. Because face it friends... movie making IS a business, and if you're not willing to accept that, maybe you're in the wrong industry.

Do I think the estate of Fran├žois Truffaut (director of The Bride Wore Black) and the estate of Toshiya Fujita (director of Lady Snowblood) should have sued the crap out of Quentin Tarantino over the Kill Bill films? You bet your sweet ass I do. Tarantino has shit on intellectual property laws for too long, and it's time someone called him on. Did John Carpenter have the right to sue the makers of Lockout for infringing on his intellectual property? You bet your sweet ass he did. Before people jump on the judgment train, it helps to sit down and look at the facts of a case.

Because John Carpenter is still a master of horror, and people who steal his ideas DESERVE to be punished.

(Source: The Guardian)